Why the origin of consciousness is will always be a belief

Consciousness is the most (if not only) subjective experience in existence. There is no scientific definition for it, there is no scientific explanation for it. Consciousness is something you have, you experience, but can’t describe.

Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.

Susan Schneider

Yet, lots of people believe that consciousness is a by-product of the brain. Almost all people believe that other people are conscious. And finally, you believe you were conscious five seconds ago and you will be conscious in five more.

All beliefs based on observations about our real world, but they are all beliefs nonetheless. Maybe our consciousness is merely connected to our brain. Maybe you are the only conscious person in existence, and other people are just very good at faking it. Maybe, just maybe, you were not conscious until now. All you know about your past is your current conscious experience of your memory anyway.

None of these claims are falsifiable. Any conscious experience except your own (right now), is nothing more than a belief. And unless we ever define it in a different way than your subjective experience, it will always be just that: a belief.

Matter over Mind – Consciousness…Fundamental force or chocolate cake?

Due to the complexity of the subject, and the size of the article it has taken me a while to finish. But part one of the Familiar Existence series is finally published!

You can read it here. Enjoy!

Familiar Existence

What is our familiar existence? Seemingly a silly question. As I look out of the window I see the sun shining, trains passing by and people living their lives. This is what feels as our familiar existence. The world we expect to still be there when we wake up from a nights sleep. The world that was here before we were born and the world that will continue after we are long gone. The physical world.

But what is it really?

We are very good at understanding the physical world because it is so important to our survival. We have to know that if we fall of a cliff or don’t get food in time, we die. Our brains developed not only to understand these concepts, but to live them. That’s what makes them so familiar.
But even though we literally live and breathe the physical, it might just be part of the truth about our existence.

For what ultimately is our existence, is not the parts that construct us, but our mind itself. Out of all the things we know or think to know about reality, this is the one thing we actually know -or rather feel- to exist. Our local existence: consciousness.

Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefor I am)

René Descartes

While the physical world is the world we interact with, consciousness is the world we experience. The physical is often described as real, tangible. But is consciousness not just as real, if not more so?

Even though consciousness is at the core of our being, the discussion of existence is often polluted by the things that come most natural to us: the physical world.
In our daily lives cities are made of buildings and buildings are made of bricks. So it is understandable that the question of what existence is, is often answered by looking for the underlying building blocks.

We understand a great deal about what we call physical. Yet, this instinctive way of looking at the world does not seem to match the way it actually is. We do not expect consciousness to arise when we construct a building. Nor can we explain our own.

So where does consciousness find its origin?
Think back about your conclusions when you imagined yourself to be in that white room. What did you think? And what do those answers say about your beliefs? Could others make sense as well?
Is consciousness merely a side effect of the physical world we experience as true, or is it possible that the truth lies somewhere else?

During the next series we will explore our local existence: Consciousness. What is existence? What are you?